Truffles, Truffle Certification and Importing
DESCRIPTION & HISTORY
Truffles are an edible fungus sought after by gourmets around the world. The Perigord black truffle (T. Melanosporum), ranks with saffron and caviar as the most elite of fine foods. Of the many species of black truffle found throughout the world connoisseurs are unanimous that T. Melanosporum ranks the best. This truffle originated in France, Italy and Spain.
Black Perigord truffles have been hunted for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate and enjoyed truffles, calling them the Food of the Gods.
Truffles are the fruit of an underground fungal colony of truffle spore that, unable to produce their own food, unite with the tree rootlets to develop symbiotic organs. The fungus provides water, minerals and antibiotic protection to the tree, which in turn provides nutrients photosynthesized by the tree to produce truffles.
Perigord black truffles, also called winter truffles, begin to form in spring and summer and mature in the fall and winter. The aromatic and pungent truffles are hunted using the help of dogs bred and trained for truffle hunting. Truffles are harvested daily through the season to ensure they are harvested at the optimum moment of ripeness. They are sold either as fresh produce or used to add their distinctive flavour to oils, preserves, sauces and condiments in a wide variety of value-added products.
The French have grown truffles for centuries and have very strict Certification protocols ensuring the quality of the Black Perigord truffle. Ducketts’ have used only French certified spore.
Working with B.C. Agriculture, Federal Food/Plant Protocol, British Columbia Agriculture Council, British Columbia Hazelnut Association and the newly formed Truffle Association of British Columbia, Duckett Truffieres are proud of being Canada’s first producer of Black Perigord inoculated trees (2003), and Canada’s first producer of Black Perigord truffles in 2007. Committed to organic practices, Ducketts also work with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
When Duckett Truffieres began in 2000, Canadian Agriculture had not considered truffle production. By 2003 Ducketts were growing and marketing truffle trees inoculated with French Black Perigord spores.
In Canada we have taken care in the use of pure Certified inoculums, a precise inoculation process, detailed observations, meticulous record-keeping and extensive ongoing testing and sequencing to lead to a certification standard that will ensure the Canadian Black Perigord truffle meets a world-respected level of quality, purity and value.
To our knowledge, until 2013, Ducketts had, since 2007, produced the only harvests of black Perigord truffles raised in Canada, a milestone in Canadian agriculture. In order to establish the highest standards possible for the trufficulture industry in Canada, Duckett Truffieres have morphologically tested and documented the results from the first Canadian truffle harvests.
During Ducketts early years of harvest, DNA testing of Canadian truffles was not available in Canada. The University had not yet established identification parameters. Finally, in 2009, the University of British Columbia – Okanagan was prepared with molecular prep and DNA sequencing for comparison, and confirmed 3 samples of Ducketts Truffles were in fact T. Melanosporum – the Black Perigord Truffle planted in early 2000 (100% identity over 571, 551, and 240 bp). These truffles, grown from phytosanitized spore will establish a valid foundation for the development of Canadian standards.
International, Federal and Provincial agricultural import regulations are in place to ensure that foreign soils and disease are not brought in with imported plant materials. ALL of our 10,000-plus truffle trees have been sprouted and grown on site at Duckett Truffieres from disease-free hardy Vancouver Island seeds, acorns and nuts. We caution all potential growers to be certain they are not risking the importation of tree diseases that are commonly found in many parts of North America.
The Certified phytosanitized inoculum is imported under strict protocols and practices from France. One certification ensures the exact identity of the inoculum (T. Melanosporum) and a second certification ensures it carries no foreign soil, disease or pest threats.
With this pre-emptive action and appropriate controls, Duckett Truffieres are confident they will avoid contamination or substitution of T. Melanosporum for inferior species. We believe trufficulture in Canada will flourish and become B.C.’s most rewarding small agricultural initiative if we take care to protect the host trees, the soil and the truffle spore from contamination.
A part of our ongoing monitoring and documentation is microscopic root analysis. We hold our breath each time the roots are analysed and show the colonization results. A picture on the right taken in the lab shows an interesting root colonization typical of t.Melanosporum.
Truffles and Sex: Truffle Reproduction
A French-Italian team of researchers coordinated by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) who decoded the genome of the Périgord black truffle found two different sets of mating genes, suggesting that two strains of T. melanosporum with opposite mating types combined through sexual reproduction. The goal of the genome project is to find the genes responsible for fruiting body (the edible truffle) development and for the symbiosis between the host tree and the t. Melanosporum fungus. This will identify the reproductive stages and conditions that trigger the fruiting body of T. Melanosporum to develop and grow.
Ducketts analysed truffle reproduction from 2007-2009. In 2009 they presented their lab photos of T. Melanosporum reproduction that showed the spore travelling throughout the pairing and the colonization process of sexual reproduction. This was a breakthrough for the scientific community that were struggling to clone spore in petrie dishes for plantations world-wide. T. Melanosporum reproduces sexually, unlike most truffles, which can be cloned. This breakthrough was shared globally and plantations world-wide began successful truffliculture while the scientific community engaged in further research that is ongoing today.
The importance of genetic diversity in the truffiere is easily apparent – truffles have the largest known mushroom genome with 125 million base pairs. Ducketts use naturally-sourced spore inoculum, not a cloned product, to ensure genetic diversity, a vital link to plantation success.
Ducketts are pioneering ongoing microscopic anaylsis of T. Melanosporum growth and development in a planned truffiere. The life cycle of t. Melanosporum has three stages:
- Reproductive stage (fruiting body)
- A vegetative phase (free-living mycelium)
- A symbiotic phase (mycorrhizas)
Photos taken in the lab but very rarely seen or photographed in the world of trufficulture, are on the right:
- A picture of mature spores
- A sprouting spore (highly magnified)
- The Hartig Net indicating early colonization of a tree root system
- A Photograph of the truffle colonizing reproduction
- Small visible fruiting bodies in the root system of a potted inoculated tree
This has not, to our knowledge, been shown in photos since 1969 when Fassi and Fontana filmed truffle production in potted inoculated trees in controlled conditions (ref “Mycorrhiza: State of the Art, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Eco-Function, Biotechnology, Eco-Physiology, Structure and Systematics” edited by Dr. Ajit Varma).